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Developing countries share their development knowledge

Alison Schafer's picture

October 4 2009 -World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings. Istanbul, Turkey. Innovating Development the South South Opportunity with Ngzo Okono-Iweala, World Bank Managing Director. The Initiative celebrates it first year.

The World Bank’s South-South exchange is big on talk-talk.

But that is the whole point, and the South-South exchange has been so popular that the program is expanding.

The idea behind South-South is to get developing countries to share their knowledge and ideas about projects. The projects range from water power in Tajikistan, to keeping boys out of trouble in the Caribbean, to harnessing Indian expertise to train eight African countries how to offer IT services.

 

 

South-South has only been in existence for one year, but the World Bank Group’s Ngozi Okonjo Iweala says it has already funded 35 grants — and, she says, there’s “a great deal of excitement” surrounding the program.

South-South relies on peer relationships, and Okonjo Iweala says it is clear that the group that makes up the World Bank’s initiative have much to share with each other.

This is a different Bank than it was in the ‘90s

Marwan Muasher's picture

Istanbul Kongre Merkezi or Istanbul Congress Center. Istanbul, Turkey. Photo credit: Simone D. McCourtie/World Bank The skies have darkened with rain outside the Istanbul Congress Center, but spirits are high inside. The labyrinth of conference rooms is abuzz with government officials and civil society representatives, looking for pragmatic and innovative solutions to today’s most important development issues.

I personally think the CSO functions are going really well. I’m seeing a lot of collaboration, a lot of common ground, and even more so than in the past.

I think this is due to the Bank’s position as a voice for the poorest and our demonstrated commitment to providing the resources countries need to deal with the food and financial crises.

Africa’s infrastructure: closing the 'efficiency gap'

Angie Gentile's picture

Rural water pump near Ulundi, South Africa. Photo: Trevor Samson/World Bank African countries lag behind their developing country counterparts on infrastructure, and the gaps are only widening over time. One of today’s keynote panels took a deep look at ways to close that gap.

Instead of defaulting to a call for more money, panelists talked about what’s impeding effective use of funds, both public and private, that are made available for infrastructure development on the continent.

To put the conversation into context, here are a few key stats:

  • Africa needs $93 billion a year to catch up with its huge infrastructure backlog over the next decade—an amount that represents more than 35 percent of GDP for fragile states.
  • Current spending on African infrastructure is higher than previously thought, at $45 billion.
  • An estimated cost savings of $17 billion—the so-called “efficiency gap”—could be achieved if existing resources were used more efficiently.

Remittances a huge issue for small states

Alison Schafer's picture

Jeffrey S Gutman, Vice President, OPCS, World BankSize does matter.

But it matters far more when you are one of the World Bank’s 40 member countries with populations under 1.5 million.  These developing small states gathered together at the Bank’s annual meetings in Istanbul at the annual Small States Forum to show that, when they all agree, small can be powerful.

The World Bank’s small states, ranging from Suriname in South America, to Swaziland in Africa, to Vanuatu in the Pacific, met in a standing-room-only venue packed with attendees.  The topic on the table was remittances, the huge cash flows sent home by economic migrants working in other countries.

Almost $4.5 billion in remittances poured into small states last year, dwarfing all financial aid packages. In some countries, remittances are greater than one-fifth of GDP. Of the world’s seven most remittance-dependent countries, four are small states: Tonga and Samoa in the Pacific, Lesotho in Africa and Guyana in South America. Overall, on average, remittances matter substantially more for small states than for their large larger developing counterparts. And the worry is that remittances are drying up in the face of the global financial crunch—with a projected decline of 9 percent this year, according to the presentation by the World Bank’s Chief Economist, Justin Lin.

 

Cape Verde’s Minister of Finance, Cristina Duarte, says remittances are a huge issue for her country, and one she eagerly discussed with her fellow small state colleagues. "We concentrated a lot on analyzing and discussing the role of remittances—how can we manage better remittances, which are an important capitals inflow for our country." The bottom-line according to Duarte: no single country can survive on its own.

Interactive timeline highlights key financial crisis events

Sameer Vasta's picture

The World Bank Financial Crisis page now features an interactive financial crisis timeline that lets you see major events that have occurred during the crisis, as well Bank stories, reports, videos and photos that are related to the crisis.

Financial Crisis Timeline Screenshot

Also on the Financial Crisis page: videos from World Bank experts on the crisis, feature stories about the impact of the crisis, and a brief overview of the financial crisis and the Bank's work.

Fragile States should not be forgotten while dealing with the international crisis

William Byrd's picture

Fragile States Panel. Photo: Geetanjali Chopra

Yesterday an exciting panel of committed global experts and international leaders spoke compellingly about the extreme problems faced by countries affected by fragility and conflict, and what can be done. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Managing Director of the World Bank) asked probing questions to the panel of Paul Collier (The Bottom Billion, and Wars, Guns and Votes), Donald Kaberuka (President of the African Development Bank, former Finance Minister of Rwanda), and George Soros (Open Society Institute, Soros Foundation).

 
I will write a more systematic summary paper later; here I am just trying to capture some memorable points that struck me from the lively discussion and debate.

Fragile States Panel. Photo: Geetanjali ChopraOn the one hand a sense of optimism, that the problems of fragile states can be addressed, the world is much more aware of these problems, and fragility is not a permanent condition, although it will require much more money and greater accountability, as well as strong leadership in the countries themselves.

On the other hand the recognition that helping countries move out of fragility and conflict is a long-term and thankless task, the dynamics of these countries often put them in a downward spiral, and it is essential to take advantage of windows of opportunity when they arise – whether at the end of a conflict or when there is political change (because once the windows are gone they are gone), and then have staying power. Deterioration can occur quickly, whereas rebuilding takes years and decades. Important not to lose hope.

Don’t bypass the state but rather use aid to help these countries build institutions, was a key message of the seminar.

More money for fragile and conflict affected countries (although it is tiny in relation to what has been spent on the global financial and economic crisis) needs to be accompanied by greater accountability. There are promising ideas, some of which have begun to be put into practice, that need to be scaled up and taken farther.

Global crisis hits home in emerging Europe and Central Asia

Angie Gentile's picture

Young Roma man in Biala Slatina, Bulgaria. Photo: Scott Wallace / World Bank The global economic crisis has reversed the impressive economic growth of recent years in emerging Europe and Central Asia, hitting families hard with higher unemployment and lost wages.

Growth has plummeted from a fast clip of 7.6 percent in 2007 to 4.7 percent in 2008, and is projected at negative 5.6 percent in 2009, the World Bank said at an Annual Meetings press briefing yesterday.

“The global financial and economic crisis has literally hit home in many parts of Emerging Europe and Central Asia,” said Philippe Le Houérou, World Bank Vice-President for Europe and Central Asia.

“What started as a financial crisis has become a social and human crisis. Just as banks were under stress, families are now the ones under severe stress as they see breadwinners lose their jobs and have trouble paying their bills.”

 

 

InterAction's Sam Worthington chats about the World Bank and civil society

Sameer Vasta's picture

This morning I had the chance to chat with Sam Worthington, the President and CEO of InterAction, who is attending the Civil Society Forum here in Istanbul. Sam took some time between the sessions of the CSO Forum to tell me a little about InterAction, the work that they are doing with the World Bank, and what he hopes to come out of the Annual Meetings in Turkey this year.

You can watch the entire 5-minute chat below:

 

 

CSO forum kicks off

Angie Gentile's picture

October 2 2009. World Bank Annual Meetings. World Bank Presiden Robert B. Zoellick and IMF Managing Director Dominque Strauss-Kahn meet with CSO/NGO representatives. Archbishop Noungane of South Africa moderates. Photo credit: Simone D. McCourtie/World BankRepresentatives from civil society organizations around the world converged at the Istanbul Conference Center yesterday for a special Townhall meeting with World Bank President Robert Zoellick and IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Just guestimating here, but I’d say there were about 300 CSOs in the room.

At the head of the table was moderator Archbishop Winston Njongonkulu Ndungane, who set the tone by noting how times have changed, with the World Bank and IMF engaging much more closely with CSOs these days.

The Archbishop posed three questions to inform the discussion: How can we work together to avoid another financial crisis? What can the Bank and Fund do to make sure the world doesn’t backslide? And how do shifts in power give those most affected by the crisis a chance to impact the response?

MENA: Economists finding some good news

Alison Schafer's picture

In Istanbul, World Bank economists taking a hard look at how the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are weathering the financial crisis are finding some good news. The World Bank and the IMF are holding their annual meetings in Turkey, and a status update on the MENA region shows some resilience.

Shamshad Akhtar, the World Bank’s new vice president for the region, said at a press conference today that MENA’s economy grew by almost 6.2 percent in 2008. But Akhtar says the region has been shaken by what she calls the “Triple-F phenomena”—food, fuel and the financial crisis. She says the food crisis has hit the region hardest, in part because of a growing population and a heavy dependence on imported food. But, she says, despite slowing growth, down to 2.2 percent, the region is faring better than many others.

 

 

Akhtar told reporters: “The key message we retain from all this is: the MENA region has weathered the triple crisis well so far.” But there is an “immediate danger of rising unemployment and resurgence of poverty.”

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